Fermented Cabbage for Stomach Varices and Liver Health
There is a jar of rotting cabbage sitting in my little back porch. If guests were to see the pale mixture, they might assume that a mad scientist had taken up residence at the farm. See, the lid has a small hole in the top where a test tube looking thinga-mabob is placed to allow air to escape. To me, it represents health and doesn’t even closely resemble brains, even if my granddaughters think so. I’ve made fermented cabbage for varices and liver health part of my liver loving diet.
Yes, dear friends – I will have you know that Fermented Cabbage is actually good for you! I’ve always loved sour Kraut and have missed it since going on a low sodium diet. I didn’t even know that it was packed with probiotics!
After my TACE chemo, I ran away to Julie’s ( my loving, earthy, spiritual Goddess, cousin, friend) Sedona, Arizona was just the place for healing. I was a large heap of pain and in deep need of girlfriend time. My first full day in town we ended up at Tlaquepaque near Oak Creek. While strolling through the farmers market, I happened upon a display of empty jars. Sitting behind the table was a man who had no idea what he was getting into when he asked how he could help me.
I answered him by giving a short history of liver disease in general, and esophageal varices in particular. We introduced ourselves and within minutes, he convinced me that I was a candidate to learn the process of fermenting food for the probiotic effects. Yessiree! Step right up and hear about the goodness of natural probiotics for stomach and esophageal varices. I had found some interesting research about probiotics for Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE) and was ready to hear more!
I know what most of you are thinking: Aren’t probiotics sold in capsules in the refrigerator section of a health food store? Who in the heck would take a head of cabbage and make it go sour? On purpose.
Ok. Ok.I realize that cabbage has a pungent odor straight from the garden. The very idea of trying to make it smell worse just seems wrong. And yes, we can get probiotic effects from much sweeter products like yogurt and honey. I had just always wanted to do this. And I missed sour kraut.
I was a fermenting virgin. So when Danny walked around to the front of the display and began to discuss the bowel benefits, I kept looking around self-consciously to see if anyone was listening.
Just so you know, I ask questions much like a machine gun. Especially when I’m extremely curious about something – like how to keep from bleeding to death. Daniel retaliated with quick responses which is perfect! I was taking notes.
When a blond woman breezed into our conversation, it seemed so natural to discuss my stomach with her. Natural. Yes, that is how I would describe Laura. She had the Sedona look. An earthy glow that came from living a healthy lifestyle. Her thick blonde hair floated around her face like a halo shining in the sun. She suggested that Danny teach a private class on fermenting. Before I knew it, we were setting a date to meet at Julie’s house!
Danny and Laura arrived promptly at 10:00 A.M. with jars and food processors and organic cabbage. Julie had Himalayan salt which was fine for everyone else, but not me. I needed mine to be low sodium. Turns out there is a starter powder, which Laura gladly supplied. What happened next was a total blast from start to finish. Danny narrated and led us through each step of making fermented cabbage.
We rinsed our head of cabbage and then set aside several of the large outer leafs for later use.
After quartering the cabbage, we ran it through Laura’s food processor. You can chop it all with a big knife on a cutting board just as easily. It doesn’t have to be too fine. I actually like mine chopped kind of course.
For the no sodium blend, you mix the culture starter powder with warm water and honey and let it sit for about 10 minutes. It’s a lot like mixing up yeast. For those who add Himalayan Salt or sea salt, now is the time.
With about 8 cups of cabbage in a bowl, Danny told Laura and me to start massaging. The cabbage, not each other. We pinched. We squeezed. We were tossing it around in the bowl. Within minutes, Laura’s salt had begun to extract liquid from the chopped cabbage. My poor little bowl was still pretty dry. Danny didn’t seem bothered by it. He said to just keep mixing. As I worked it, the cabbage shrunk almost by half!
We used this time to get acquainted a little better. Laura was planning her first hike into the Grand Canyon. She trained every morning by walking in the mountains surrounding Sedona. I practically gushed while asking her if she would let me tag along. We agreed to meet the following morning for a hike. We woke up the sun together several times during my stay. She watched out for me and my varices by making sure I didn’t get my heart rate up too high. I’ve made a lifetime friend. xo
Danny kept bringing us back on task as he spouted information about the bazillions of probiotic strains that our work would produce. (whole ‘nother blog on that) After about 10 minutes, Danny declared the massaging was complete.
Now it was time to pack the cabbage into the jars. I say pack, because Danny wanted it compacted in as tight as we could make it. This is what prevents air pockets. Using wooden spoons and potato mashers, we pushed the cabbage down and adding more until the jar was full. You want about 1 inch space left at the top.
Taking the large loose leaves and folding them, we put them on top of the chopped cabbage. It acts as sort of a lid. Some people use ceramic discs that are made just for this. This is what keeps the chopped cabbage covered with water.
Finally, we filled it to the top with water to make sure all of the cabbage was submerged and then put the lid on. This is where the little gizmo at the top does it’s work. It allows water to escape, but no air can get in. See, the salt (or starter) draws moisture out of the cabbage. The liquid then rises and can spill over. I put the whole jar in a bowl to catch any drip.
You want to keep it out of direct sunlight for several days while it ferments. After that, I put it into 5 pint jars in the fridge. You can just leave it in the container though. The fermenting process stops once you put in in the ice box, but it will retain it’s probiotic goodness for months.
You can start by eating about ¼ cup per day. Just a couple of bites in the beginning especially. This keeps you from bloating and gas. Your gut may not be used to being so healthy!
There are a many variations on the recipe. I add apple and pear and all kinds of stuff now. The benefits are SOO numerous that I’m actually writing another blog about it. I’ve uncovered research about Hepatic Encephalopathy in addition to stomach and gut health. When you think about it, the doctor who treats liver disease is a gastroenterologist. They specialize in your gastrointestinal system which is related to – your liver.
You are going to be amazed at how munching on fermented veggies helps you feel better. Be sure and comment with any questions or let me know how your experience goes. Check out the recipe here. Xo Karen:)